How to Stack Work Shelves Safely

Updated February 21, 2017

A worker that uses unsafe practices when stacking items, such as work shelves, can place a financial, physical or emotional burden on himself or others through injury or death caused by his negligence. Relieve this burden and safely stack work shelves by following the guidelines set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), your company and doctors.

Lift and organise the shelves using ergonomic techniques to reduce the chance of straining or injuring muscles or joints by bending straight over or lifting more weight than you can handle. Wear a pair of work gloves with a grip-surface. Bend your knees (to use your leg muscles), keep your back straight, acquire a firm grasp and lift your work shelves. Work in small groupings instead of large stacks and use a cart, hand truck or forklift with pallet to move your stacks.

Place shelves within the painted or tape boundaries outlined in your company's storage area or warehouse to allow for safe through-traffic between pallets and boxes. If you are stacking on pallets, use wedges (chocks) on either side of your stacked shelves to keep them from sliding off the pallets. Keep in mind that a pallet corner jutting out beyond a taped boundary can cause any number of accidents, such as a forklift or cart running into it or a worker tripping and falling.

Stack shelves in storage no higher than the approved maximum height. Look for painted or taped height markers on walls, columns or poles. If your company does not have these markers, ask your manager to advise you of the number of shelves you can safely stack before proceeding.

Use a ladder whenever stacking smaller or lightweight shelves on other shelves in a storage unit because you can lose your grip or pull a muscle by trying to lift shelving above your head. In addition, stack the shelves securely and with no overhang. That way, the stacked shelves cannot slip off one another, fall from the shelves or cause injury from overhanging sharp corners and edges.

Wrap loose, stacked shelves with a tight, industrial-strength pallet/storage band or rope after stacking to protect against accidents and injury caused from falling or sliding shelves.


If you have long shelves that hang over pallets, move the pallets to non-traffic areas. If you must stack long shelves on short shelves in storage units causing an overhang, try to move to a non-traffic area and affix a brightly coloured flag or tape to the end of the shelves to make others aware of the overhang.


Never twist your body when lifting shelves to stack in another area nearby as this can cause different muscles to work against one another and result in injury. Instead, move your entire body, lift the shelves and walk them to the cart or storage unit and stack.

Things You'll Need

  • Work gloves
  • Carts
  • Hand trucks
  • Forklifts
  • Pallets
  • Chocks
  • Storage bands or rope
  • Coloured flags or tape
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About the Author

Based in Southern Pennsylvania, Irene A. Blake has been writing on a wide range of topics for over a decade. Her work has appeared in projects by The National Network for Artist Placement, the-phone-book Limited and GateHouse Media. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University.